The mid-term evaluation of the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) was published today. It assesses CEF’s overall performance in light of its general and sectoral objectives three and a half years into its implementation. According to this evaluation, CEF-supported interventions have so far contributed to the Commission’s priorities with regard to jobs, growth and investment, the internal market, Energy Union and climate, and the Digital Single Market, and have thus strengthened the EU's competitiveness.
Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) provides funding for trans-European transport, energy and telecommunications infrastructures, and has an allocated budget of EUR 30.4 billion (of which EUR 1.04 billion for telecommunications) for the period 2014-2020. More specifically, CEF supports projects with a cross-border dimension, which tend to be hindered by underinvestment at the Member State level.
According to the mid-term evaluation, in telecommunications, priority has been given to interoperable trans-European digital services. Examples are the cross-border recognition of national electronic identification mechanisms, or the secure and efficient exchange of health-related data to facilitate continuity of care and patient safety for citizens seeking cross-border healthcare. In addition, basic solutions supported by CEF funding (the so-called building blocks which notably include eSignature, eID, eInvoicing, eDelivery of data and documents, and automated translation) are being extensively reused also beyond the remit of CEF, in areas such as agriculture, environment and education.
Cross-border services help improve the daily lives of Europeans through enhanced digital inclusion and connectivity and are a key tenet of the Digital Single Market. The evaluation concludes, however, that the current eligibility rules limit the programme's ability to capitalise on the latest technological developments and address emerging policy priorities ( for example cybersecurity-related challenges). In addition to that, available funding levels have so far only allowed to partially address the current needs in terms of cross-border digital infrastructures in areas of public interest. As far as the roll-out of broadband infrastructures is concerned, due to resource limitations, support was focused on technical assistance activities to improve projects' viability as well as on the use financial instruments with significant leverage potential.
For the first time, Connecting Europe Facility has brought transport, energy and telecommunications sectors under a common funding framework, centrally managed by the Commission. At programme level, this approach generates economies of scale thanks to more efficient grant management as well as the establishment of common procedures. At project level, however, CEF has so far not brought about the expected cross-sector synergies (e.g. connected cooperative and automated mobility, alternative fuel infrastructure for vehicles, smart grids, and deployment of 5G along the transport network). To address common challenges and further improve efficiency, it is therefore crucial to ensure that the right conditions are in place for the timely development of such synergetic projects.
The mid-term evaluation's main findings are presented in the Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions; an in-depth assessment can be found in the accompanying Commission staff working document (SWD Part 1 and 2 ).